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Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora

Rebecca Kobrin

Publication Year: 2010

The mass migration of East European Jews and their resettlement in cities throughout Europe, the United States, Argentina, the Middle East and Australia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries not only transformed the demographic and cultural centers of world Jewry, it also reshaped Jews' understanding and performance of their diasporic identities. Rebecca Kobrin's study of the dispersal of Jews from one city in Poland -- Bialystok -- demonstrates how the act of migration set in motion a wide range of transformations that led the migrants to imagine themselves as exiles not only from the mythic Land of Israel but most immediately from their east European homeland. Kobrin explores the organizations, institutions, newspapers, and philanthropies that the Bialystokers created around the world and that reshaped their perceptions of exile and diaspora.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: The Modern Jewish Experience


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Title Page

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

It seems almost impossible after so many years of working on this project, which has gone through numerous transformations and alterations, to remember and give full credit to all the people who helped me. This book represents the culmination of a long journey, along which I have been most fortunate to have had the support of ...

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Note on Orthography and Transliteration

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pp. xiii-xiv

In transliterating Russian and Hebrew words, I have generally followed the systems used by the Library of Congress, with the exception of certain well-known names familiar to American readers for which other transliterations (e.g., Dubnow rather than Dubnov; Trotsky rather than Trotskii) are commonly used. Many of the people ...


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p. xvi

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Introduction: Between Exile and Empire: Visions of Jewish Dispersal in the Age of Mass Migration

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pp. 1-18

In 1921, Chaim Horowitz (1885-1962), a Yiddish journalist fresh off the boat in New York, was approached to write the feature piece for a debut journal, Der Bialystoker Stimme (The Voice of Bialystok). Overwhelmed by his new home, Horowitz appreciated the opportunity to make his name known in New York’s Yiddish ...

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Chapter 1. The Dispersal Within: Bialystok, Jewish Migration, and Urban Life in the Borderlands of Eastern Europe

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pp. 19-68

In 1862, when the young Russian writer Nikolai Leskov first saw the town of Bialystok, it boasted little more than a few paved roads and seventeen thousand residents. First settled in 1320, the town was bequeathed to Count Jan Klemens Branicki in 1703, who immediately welcomed Jews to his new home. By the late nineteenth ...

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Chapter 2.

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pp. 69-131

With little fear or hesitation, David Sohn, a young man of twenty, approached the podium of the small dark auditorium at 246 East Broadway on New York City’s Lower East Side. Clearing his throat, he began speaking to the sweaty crowd of hundreds who had assembled on July 17, 1919, to hear ...

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Chapter 3. “Buying Bricks for Bialystok”: Philanthropy and the Bonds of the New Jewish Diaspora

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pp. 131-175

A striking image appeared on the December 1926 cover of the Bialystoker Stimme, the Yiddish quarterly distributed worldwide by the Bialystoker Center in New York.1 At first glance, it appears as though the viewer is gazing at a single cityscape: on the right looms a three-story tower, overshadowing all the buildings ...

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Chapter 4. Rewriting the Jewish Diaspora: Images of Bialystok in the Transnational Bialystok Jewish Press, 1921–1949

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pp. 176-206

Celebrating the success of the first issue of the Bialystoker Stimme in 1922, David Sohn commended Bialystok’s Jews around the world for not “lapsing into ‘an ocean of forgetfulness.’“ 1 As an outpouring of letters from readers in the United States, South America, and Europe illustrated, Bialystok provided “materials ...

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Chapter 5. Shifting Centers, Conflicting Philanthropists: Rebuilding, Resettling, and Remembering Jewish Bialystok in the Post-Holocaust Era

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pp. 207-243

The mood was both jubilant and apprehensive as fifty-five representatives of Bialystok’s Jews from around the world gathered on August 20, 1949, in New York for the third World Bialystoker Convention. Their task was to formulate new strategies to address the grim plight of those Jews who survived the war, returned ...

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Epilogue: Diaspora and the Politics of East European Jewish Identity in the Age of Mass Migration

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pp. 244-252

Ten in the morning, and already the hot, May sun beat down on the main bus terminal in Yehud, a small municipality on the edge of Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. The deafening noise of landing planes rang in my ears as I got onto a local bus and told the drive the address at which I was expected in Kiryat ...


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pp. 253-312


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pp. 313-350


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pp. 351-361

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004284
E-ISBN-10: 0253004284
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253354426

Page Count: 380
Illustrations: 38 b&w illus., 4 maps
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: The Modern Jewish Experience
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OCLC Number: 635293835
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Poland -- Białystok -- History.
  • Jews -- Poland -- Białystok -- Migrations -- History.
  • Jews, Polish -- Cultural assimilation -- Foreign countries.
  • Jews -- Migrations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Jewish diaspora -- History -- 20th century.
  • Białystok (Poland) -- Ethnic relations.
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